Little Stage Race 2013. ThirstyBearCycling Phipps repeats his GC Victory
Little City Stage Race – 35+ 1/2/3
In its 2nd year, this is quickly becoming one of my favorite events of the season due to the courses and beautiful mountain scenery. Unlike other stage races, this is a points based Omnium, so the criterium is just as important as the time trial. Representing Thirsty Bear Cycling were Kyle Ashton, Piers Barry, Phil Hynes and myself.
First up was the TT, a 9.5 mile out & back along the final 5 miles of the RR course. I had won this last year, and thought I laid down a good effort, but it was only good for 3rd behind Dave Bailey (18:37.77) and Mike Buckley (18:51.39). My time of 18:52.05 (30.53 mph) was just 0.66 seconds behind 2nd. That really hurt!
Piers had a solid TT to finish 12th, with Phil in 14th and Kyle in 18th.
On to the criterium. The temp for our 2:20PM downtown Minden criterium was 102 degrees and the plan was to just stay safe and try to chase down anything dangerous and hopefully get me into the top 10 to pick up some points. About halfway through the race, Chris Baker and Chris Lyman from Folsom Bike got away and we and the other teams decided not to waste the bullets chasing since they had both finished out of the points in the TT. Instead we just sat in and were patient waiting for the sprint to pick up as many points as possible. I was able to stay near the front for the final few laps and get onto Jan Weissenberger’s (Zipz) wheel in the final lap and luckily we avoided the crash that took down Jeromy Cottell (Specialized) in what looked like a nasty fly over the bars. Jan ended up 4th and I was 6th, so I scored better than I expected. Piers unfortunately went down in the final lap, but luckily no one was seriously hurt with just road rashes and bruises & nothing broken.
After stage 2, I was sitting in 2nd place with 104 points between Mike Buckley (106) and Jason Walker (103) from Folsom Bike, with Jan in 4th at 95. I knew I would need to beat both Buckley and Walker to win the overall, and they had 7 guys so getting away and staying away would not be easy.
Final stage road race. 6 times an 11 mile loop with 800 ft of climbing per lap. Our race started at 11:25 and it was already 90+ by then and was just getting warmer. The plan was to stay cool as long as possible (thanks so much for our Thirsty Bears in the feed zone with the ice cold bottles!), but also to start pushing the climbs after the 1st lap to put the pressure on Folsom and hopefully get rid of a few of them.
We were pretty relaxed for the first lap but on the 2nd climb, Jan powered away and had a gap. I considered bridging, but knew Folsom would react, so I stayed in the bunch. Jan was soon joined by teammate Ben Albracht, which was a dangerous move, but Folsom was working the front keeping them within 20 seconds, so they sat up. Kyle, Phil and Piers went to the front as we started the 2nd lap climbs and with Piers on the front on the 2nd climb started to split up the field. At the crest, Jeromy Cottell surged and had a gap. I was right there at the front and bridged up and asked him if he wanted company or if he wanted me to sit up since I knew I was break poison, but he said no, let’s just ride tempo and see if anyone bridges. We started the 3rd lap climbs with about 30 seconds and just rode tempo, hoping some help would come across and at the top of the 1st climb were joined by Jean Luc Perez (PrimeTime) who was very willing to work for about 4 miles until he realized we weren’t getting any further ahead, so he sat on. After he skipped a few pulls, Jeromy let me roll of the front then when I had a gap he jumped across to me and we were working the tempo again.
We started the 4th lap climbs, still with about 30 seconds over the pack and again rode relaxed to see if anyone would bridge, but by the top of the 2nd climb we could see no one was bridging, so we decided to soft pedal until we were caught by the remains of the pack, which was now about 15 guys. By this time the wind was really picking up and the final 3 mile stretch to the finish had a harsh cross wind from the right. Once we were caught, Folsom when to the front and drilled it with a small echelon along just to the right of the center line. This was the hardest part of the race for me, as I was right at the line really struggling to stay on. Thankfully Phil was there and I told him to ride to my right and he was able to protect me from the wind so I could catch my breath. Then Walker attacked on the front and the other Folsom guys sat up. Phil asked if we should chase and I told him to just keep Walker close and I would try to bridge to him on the next climb. Phil dug deep and we caught Walker just before the climb. Chris Lyman from Folsom set a hard tempo on the climbs so I decided to be patient and save it for the final lap. We were now down to about 10 riders and I was isolated. On the crosswind section Lyman attacked and had a gap. I decided the best way to chase would be to go to the centerline, put my head down and gutter everyone into the other lane. This worked pretty well, especially since there was an official there yelling at guys to get back to the right on the centerline. I caught Lyman and only Walker was able to hold my wheel, so the 3 of us had a gap on the descent toward the final climb. Lyman was pulling at tempo and “encouraging” me to pull through since the guys we had dropped were catching up. I pulled through slowly a couple times, but was saving all I could for the final climbs. About 7 or so guys caught back on and as soon as we started the climb I attacked and soon had a gap. At the top of the 1st climb, Ben from Zipz was able to grab my wheel and followed me across to the 2nd climb. I wanted to keep him with me for some help on the windy final stretch, but had to keep the climb full gas to build my lead on the chasers and he fell back. As I crested the climb, I just put my head down and thought “just 7 polo field laps to the finish”. The whole rest of the way I just stared at my Garmin as the distance ticked down. I took a look back at 1K to go and still had about 30 seconds, so I was able to ease up a bit and enjoy the finish with family & teammates cheering me on. The stage win also gave me the GC title over Jan who won the sprint over Dave Bailey for 2ndon the stage. Phil held on for 14th overall to add a little more $ to the team haul! Thanks Kyle, Piers & Phil it was a lot of fun racing with you guys!
I can’t say for sure if my TT performance was a bit off, but the night before I had only had 1 Stella instead of my regular 2 or 3 IPAs, while I had 3 IPAs on Saturday night and felt real strong on Sunday. Coincidence or correlation?